YISROEL (ISRAEL) RABON (1900-1941)
The author of stories, poetry, and novels, he was born (with the surname Rabin) in Govertshev (Gowarczów), Poland. In 1902 his family settled in Lodz and lived in the Balut (Bałuty) neighborhood in poverty and want. He was orphaned at an early age on his father’s side. He painted posters but could not survive for long by this means alone. For a short time he lived in Warsaw. During the German occupation of Lodz, he fled to Bialystok, later to Vilna where he was murdered in Ponar. At age fifteen he began publishing ditties on current topics in Lazar Kahan’s Fraytik (Friday) and later in his Lodzer folksblat (Lodz people’s newspaper), using the name Yisroelik der Kleyner. Together with Khayim Leyb Fuks, he edited the periodical Shveln (Thresholds) in Lodz (1923-1924). He published his first story there, “Shneyland” (Snow country). His first poems appeared in Gezangen (Songs), edited by Fuks, and he contributed work to other Lodz literary collections: Vegn (Pathways), Oyfgang (Arise), and S’feld (The field) edited by Fuks. During his brief sojourn in Warsaw, he edited the monthly Os (Letter), in which he published poems and a story, using the pen names Rus Vintsigster and Shapse Tsiter. In 1940, he edited together with Noyekh Prilucki and Y. Y. Trunk the anthology Untervegs (Pathways) (Vilna), in which appeared a chapter of his novel Der veg tsu di shtern (The way to the stars). To support himself, he published numerous newspaper novels in Lodzer tageblat (Lodz daily newspaper) and Warsaw’s Haynt (Today), edited by Y. Rozental et al., and in the evening newspaper he co-edited, Ekstrabkat (Extra newspaper) and Unzer ekspres (Our express). He also published literary essays and translations from German and French poets. Some of his poems appeared in: Joseph Leftwich, The Golden Peacock (New York, 1961); and Charles Dobzynski, Anthologie de la poésie Yiddish, le miroir d’un people (Anthology of Yiddish poetry, the mirror of a people) (Paris: Gallimard, 1971).
His works include: Di klole fun blut, roman fun yidishn lebn fun der letster tsayt (The curse of blood, a novel of Jewish life in recent times) (Warsaw: L. Goldfarb, 1926), 270 pp., using the pen name Y. Rozental; Di gas (The street), a novel (Warsaw: L. Goldfarb, 1928), 284 pp., translated into English by Leonard Wolf (New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1985), 192 pp. (there are also Hebrew, French, Polish, Russian, German, and Spanish translations); Hintern ployt fun der velt (Behind the fence of the world), poetry (Warsaw: L. Goldfarb, 1928), 33 pp.; Groer friling (Grey spring) (Warsaw, 1933), 48 pp.; Balut, roman fun a forshtot (Bałuty, a novel of an urban neighborhood) (Warsaw, 1934), 160 pp.; Lider (Poems) (Warsaw, 1937), 41 pp. “Yisroel Rabon,” wrote Y. Y. Trunk, “was the most asocial writer in Yiddish literature in Poland. He believed in no manner of community…. Community [for him] meant bringing together human beings under one dark fate…. Two motifs recur in all of his work:…want and war…. Rabon’s world is the wild primordial darkness of life.” “Rabon made an effort, and it was a successful effort,” noted Meylekh Ravitsh, “to describe in novels, stories, and poetry the poverty of Lodz’s Bałuty. He lived there throughout, [and] he loved it; it was for him diabolically good…. Is it then a surprise that his poems were so devilishly sinister?” “He was subtle,” noted Yoysef Okrutni,” in painting the emotional position of the individual in his loneliness. His merit as a describer in prose lines corresponds as well to the same attribute as when he turns to an illustration in a poem or ballad. In both he is original…frugal in the means and poignantly clear in imagery.”
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 4 (under “Rabin, Yisroel”); Meylekh Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My lexicon), vol. 1 (Montreal, 1945); Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) 1 (1938); Y. Rapoport, Tropns gloybn (Drops of faith) (Melbourne, 1948), pp. 234-41; Y. Y. Trunk, in Unzer tsayt (New York) (June 1958); Yitskhok Goldkorn, Lodzher portretn umgekumene yidishe shrayber un tipn (Portraits of Lodz, Murdered Yiddish writers and types) (Tel Aviv: Hamenorah, 1963), pp. 33-57; Khayim Leyb Fuks, Lodzh shel mayle, dos yidishe gaystiḳe un derhoybene lodzh, 100 yor yidishe un oykh hebreishe literatur un kultur in lodzh un in di arumiḳe shtet un shtetlekh (Lodz on high, the Jewish spiritual and elevated Lodz, 100 years of Yiddish and also Hebrew literature and culture in Lodz and in the surrounding cities and towns) (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1972), see index; Yoysef Okrutni, in Tsukunft (New York) 11 (1973); Froym Oyerbakh, Af der vogshol, esey (In the balance, essay), vol. 1 (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1975); Yeshurin archove, YIVO (New York).
Dr. Volf Gliksman
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 552.]